15 – 19 August
Pui and I say goodbye to the rest of the group and cross the border into Chile. Travelers as well as locals have told me that in the entire north of Chile there is basically one place that must not be missed: San Pedro de Atacama, located very close to the Bolivian border and right in the driest desert in the world – the Atacama desert.
San Pedro turns out to be a strange little town. It is not very pretty and does not have any proper roads but just dusty dirt roads. Also, the small main square is nothing compared to some of the stunning plazas I have seen in other cities and countries over the past months and even the church has nothing to offer as it is very small and entirely built of clay, and thus is brown and very basic.
However, at the same time there is a really chill and friendly atmosphere in town. San Pedro seems to attract a lot of hippies and artists making music and selling bracelets as well as necklaces on the streets. Furthermore, next to plenty of hostels/hotels and tour operators there are countless of really nice restaurants and coffee places all over town, not only providing delicious meals but also an amazing vibe as most come with fireplace, good music and cool decor.
Pui and I just spend a couple of days not doing anything other than chilling in the hostel’s hammocks and trying various restaurants having the most delicious food as well Chilean wine. We have a good excuse though as we need to recharge our batteries, warm up and process all the impressions of the past days. We are so relaxed that we don’t even realize that we are in a different time zone until we arrive at the bus terminal and find out that the bus that is supposed to take Pui up to the Peruvian border left one hour ago (the hour we forgot to add to our prior time zone in Bolivia). The result is that she has to stay an extra day, but hey, it could be worse.
One afternoon is filled with a little excursion to nearby Valle de la luna (valley of the moon). We walk around some impressive rock- and salt formations, try to find our way through a little cave and climb up a huge sand dune. There is absolutely no vegetation here, just sand, rocks and salt, and, as the name suggests, it does feel like being on the moon in a way. The highlight of this little tour is the sunset that we watch from a viewpoint overlooking the Valle de la luna and the Andes in the background. It is fascinating how the setting sun puts constantly changing colours on the rocks and the mountains and how quick the temperatures drop here in the desert as soon as the sun disappears. It is a good way to wrap up this last day in San Pedro as well as my stay in northern Chile.